The Trouble With Birdhouses. And Clotheslines. And Children With Hammers. And Nails.

Trees have a way of bringing the past to life. I learned this multiple times the other day while attempting to slab out an urban black walnut tree around 75 years old.




As we ran the chainsaw mill the length of the lower trunk we hit our first nails which made a slight thunking noise and jolted the saw a bit. I wasn’t particularly surprised-the nails were right at waist and chest height where bird feeders, clotheslines, children with hammers, etc would crop up. We were taking a chance using this tree but it was such a beautiful one and would have been a shame to see it chipped into dust. So we continued and the nails kept coming.

In between breaks of cringing with every nail we hit and spark we saw coming out I mentioned to my friend that my dad had grown up less than a block away from this house and it was not a stretch to imagine him as a kid nailing a bird feeder to this very walnut tree. The past comes back to us in many ways.



On the flip side, after the first 3 slabs the staining, while lovely was diminishing and it appears we hit the worst of it at the beginning. We were able to sharpen the ripping chains ourselves after the first couple runs and finished out 4 large slabs but rather than push the saw too hard we took it in for a tune-up and to get the chains professionally sharpened.

The lower trunk is about 8 1/2 feet long and around 32″ at the widest. We have about 2 more 3″ slabs to cut out of this trunk although part of me is considering cutting one 4″-5″ slab for a solid-top black walnut workbench 3 or 4 years down the road.

Once we get to the upper trunk we will likely move to 2″ thick pieces and then we have the very end of the trunk where the main crotch of the tree sits and that will make for some nice end and coffee tables down the road.

We may take a break from urban lumber for a while, simply due to the metal factor, but it certainly makes for some unique pieces.